Hugs, kisses and cuddles seem to be part of almost every child’s bedtime routine. Parents, siblings, spouses, and family members often share exchanges of love and affection before heading off to bed. When we have special pets in our family, we desire to include them in these endearing moments, too. Yet, it’s important to take note that these age-old traditions, meant to fill everyone’s bucket before bedtime, are experienced very differently by our canine companions.
Dogs are notorious for tolerating confining human displays of affection that invade their space. This makes it very easy for us to miss the subtle warnings they give to communicate discomfort or conflict in a situation before biting. It is especially dangerous when it comes to the end of the day when everyone is tired and less tolerant – including our precious pups. It may be tempting to let the kids smooch the pooch but using alternatives will ensure a safer way for children of all ages to sweetly say goodnight to their resting fur friends. Guide the kids in replacing doggy hugs and kisses with some of these endearing exchanges instead:
- Blow the dog a kiss.
- Invite the dog over to them and do the smooch and slide demonstrated in this video.
- Sing or whisper a lullaby.
- Bow or curtsy bidding their royal pets a night of peaceful repose.
- Wave night nights in just about any style (like a princess, twinkling star, moose antlers, etc.)
- Read a book or tell a story like a teacher leading circle time.
- Draw or color a picture and tell the pup all about it.
- Sign, “I love you.” in ASL or create their own hand motions.
- Toss a treat or two towards the pup before heading off to bed.
- Give a heartthrob goodnight by making a heart with their hands and bringing it toward and away from their chest.
- Hide some canine cookies for the pup to find.
- Make a Hansel and Gretel trail of treats or kibble leading the way to the door used for the final potty break of the night.
Direct children in using the above suggestions as part of a safer nighttime ritual with pets. Encourage kids to stay out of the dog’s area by keeping a MINIMUM distance of 3 feet away and avoid moving toward the pooch. You can help young children maintain this distance by using a visual place marker like a sticker, throw rug, potholder, or hand towel on the ground for them to sit or stand on. Provide a special stuffed animal to be the recipient of children’s close contact and tactile expressions of love when it’s time to hit the hay. It never hurts to gently remind youngsters that “When it’s a resting dog you see, leave them be.”